Africa: 2023 AFCON Qualifiers – Giants Seek Perfect Start

The group phase of the qualifiers for the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d'Ivoire 2023 start on Wednesday with the giants seeking to start their campaigns with victories.

As some of the unfancied sides are growing in confidence in African football lately, they will also be fighting to be among the 23 teams countries to grab their places at the competition.

Out of the 48 participating countries in the qualifiers for Africa's showpiece event, the tussle for the places will start in Luanda as Angola will be hosting the Central African Republic.

In the first of the many matches, the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda will open the campaign in Group E at 16:00 GMT, with the home side expecting victory to help them qualify after missing the previous tournament just like their opponents on Wednesday.

High scoring midfielder Isaac Ngoma, Theodor Yawanendji and enforcer Geoffrey Kondogbia are among the players to cause uncomfortable moments for the home side.

But the newcomer Helder Costa and Manuel Afonso who scored two goals in his previous match for Angola are expected to call the shots and help their side secure victory.

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The match will be played at the same time as Libya take on Botswana and new coach of the Mediterranean Knights Corentin Martins will be relying on home-based players in the Group J match in Benghazi just like their opponents from Southern Africa.

Ghana will welcome Madagascar at the Cape Coast stadium in the last match on Wednesday as coach Otto Addo has been boosted by the return of fit-again youngsters Mohammed Kudus and Kamaldeen Sulemana while captain Andre Ayew returns from suspension.

The Black Stars will however miss the services of Thomas Partey for the match starts at 19:00 GMT as he is still recovering from the injury suffered while playing for Arsenal and the two home-based players in the squad have made a good impression.

"I have been watching some games. The two players made good impressions. It's important to see them live in training and in the end, once we're on the pitch, I don't care about who is local and who is not. The performance will decide," Addo said during a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

On Thursday, record winners Egypt have a date with Guinea at the Cairo International Stadium with 40,000 fans in attendance under new coach Ehab Galal with their top players Mohamed Salah expected to start the match.

Tunisia will face Equatorial Guinea at the Stade Hammadi Agrebi in Radès, Malawi will be hoping for a bright start when they square off against Ethiopia at the Bingu National Stadium while Mozambique play against Rwanda in Johannesburg.

2021 Africa Cup of Nations surprise package Comoros start their campaign for a second consecutive participation in the finals at home by tackling Lesotho on Friday.

The Coelancanths reached the Round of 16 stage in Cameroon earlier this year after qualifying ahead of Ghana in a group that had Morocco and Gabon.

Togo, seeking a return to the tournament in Cote d'Ivoire next year, will kick start their journey at the Stade de Kegue in Lome against a less fancied Eswatini side.

Cote d'Ivoire, the hosts for the finals commence their adventure under new coach Jean-Louis Gasset at the Stade de Yamoussoukro, one of the venues for the tournament on Friday.

The Elephants will try to get a win over Zambia to set off their preparations for the actual tournament in the perfect way despite not chasing a qualification place.

Burkina Faso will be at Stade de Marrakech in Morocco to play as the home team to entertain Cape Verde in a crunchy West African derby.

The Stallions beat the Blue Sharks 1-0 when the two countries met at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Defending champions Senegal will begin their journey for a spot in next year's tournament at home on Saturday at the newly built Stade de Abdoulaye Wade in Diamniadio with Liverpool start Sadio Mane expected to play a part in the game.

Namibia's Brave Warriors have their intentions set on a return to the big stage having failed to secure qualification to the last edition this year. They have to start well on Saturday with an encounter with Burundi in Johannesburg.

Niger are facing Tanzania at neighbouring Benin with the Group F fixture set for the Stade de l'Amitié in Cotonou.

The other matches coming off on Saturday include Algeria coming up against Uganda with the former trying to make amends of their disappointing AFCON 2021 campaign and World Cup qualification failure.

DR Congo will be at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa to lock horns with Gabon whilst Gambia tackle minnows South Sudan at the Stade Lat Dior in Senegal city of Thiès.

Gambia in their maiden participation in the AFCON in Cameroon made it to the quarter-finals where they succumbed to the hosts.

Mali who also have a new coach in Eric Sekou Chelle will hope for a good beginning of his reign when they play against Congo at Bamako's Stade du 26 Mars.

Mauritania are looking to make it to their third straight AFCON appearance next year and that will be under new trainer Amir Abdou. Abdou was in charge of Comoros in their debut at the tournament in Cameroon this year.

The Mourabitounes are opening their qualification account at the Stade Olympique in Nouakchott against Sudan.

Other round one matches have been scheduled for Thursday, June 9, 2022 when Nigeria welcome Sierra Leone at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja behind closed doors.

The Leone Stars last visit to Nigeria saw them from four goals down to draw 4-4 with the Super Eagles.

Guinea Bissau face Mauritius in Marrakech as Morocco also take on South Africa at the Complexe Sportif Prince Moulay-Abdellah in Rabat on the same day.

Matchday two will start on Sunday, June 5 through to next Monday, June 13 across 22 venues on the continent.

The top two winners in most of the groups will qualify for the tournament in Cote d'Ivoire next year.

Artmotion S.Africa

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